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Above: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in Naya Raipur in Chhattisgarh/Photo: UNI

The Madhya Pradesh government’s decision to have tiles with embossed images of the PM and the CM on PMAY houses has kicked up a storm, leading the High Court to crack down on it

~By Rakesh Dixit in Bhopal

A move by the Madhya Pradesh government is being seen as a ploy to influence voters ahead of the assembly polls slated for November. Beneficiaries of the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY) have had special ceramic tiles with embossed images of PM Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan installed at the entrances of homes and in kitchens built under this housing scheme for the poor. These carry a message too—“Sabka Sapna, Ghar Ho Apna.”

However, in response to a petition filed by Datia-based journalist Sanjay Purohit in July, the Gwalior bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has stymied the move. On September 19, a division bench of Justices Sanjay Yadav and Vivek Agrawal said that there should be no photos of any political leaders on any of the tiles in the houses built under PMAY. It asked the state government to remove these tiles and sought a compliance report by December 20.

The petitioner had questioned the rationale of putting photos of Modi and the CM on the houses. His advocate argued that the houses were built using public money, and not for electoral benefits.

MP’s advocate general, Pushpendra  Kaurav, told the Court that the state government had modified its earlier order and it was not mandatory to have pictures of the prime minister and the chief minister on the tiles. The Union government had already told the Court that houses built under PMAY would carry only the logo of the scheme.

The order for installation of tiles with the photos of the PM and the CM was passed by Manju Sharma, additional commissioner, department of urban administration and development, on April 4. The order said: “Two tiles measuring 450×600 mm and bearing photos of the prime minister and chief minister—one at the main gate and the other above the platform in the kitchen—have to be fixed in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Shahri-2022)’s housing units.” Municipal commissioners and chief municipal officers were asked to comply with the order.

Nearly three lakh families in Madhya Pradesh have been identified as beneficiaries under PMAY. Over two lakh houses have already been built under PMAY across the state and tenders have been floated for supply of tiles to municipal bodies.

PMAY was started in 2015 with the aim of providing housing to all by the NDA government. Its target was to provide houses to all by 2022 when India will complete 75 years of Independence. On June 9, 2014, Modi in  his address to the joint session of Parliament, announced: “By the time the nation completes 75 years of its Independence, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana will bring a ‘pucca house’ for every family in cities with water connection, toilet facilities, 24×7 electricity supply and complete access. Its aim is to build two crore houses across the nation’s length and breadth.” The scheme provides for a credit-linked subsidy of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2.30 lakh to home buyers on an interest rate of less than four percent.

The opposition Congress had earlier demanded removal of the tiles, alleging that it was the BJP government’s ploy to influence voters. “This is a government-run scheme meant for the poor and it should not be politicised. The ruling party is setting a wrong precedent,” said Ajay Singh, leader of the opposition in the MP assembly.

The state BJP, however, insisted that nothing was wrong with the plan. “There was no intention of politicising any issue,” state BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal said. The minister for urban administration development, Maya Singh, too defended the move, stating: “The PM and CM want to see a roof over everybody’s head. The people themselves want such tiles in their houses.”

Chouhan has often been criticised for his penchant for ensuring his photographs in every gift his government doles out to the people. His photographs are ubiquitous across Madhya Pradesh—from billboards to textbooks to laptops supplied to schoolchildren.

All publicity material on welfare schemes invariably bear Chouhan’s photograph. Even congratulatory messages from the state government to sportspersons and other talent bear his photograph. These are often bigger than those of the achievers in billboards and newspaper advertisements. The Congress had flayed the CM for such publicity during Simhastha, a Kumbh Mela held in Ujjain in 2016. The Mahakumbh was widely advertised not only in the Indian media but in several foreign publications as well.

Thanks to the intervention of the High Court, PMAY will probably be the only welfare scheme in MP that will not carry the chief minister’s photo.

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